Israel's PM bans extremist lawmaker from Jerusalem Old City march

Israel's PM bans extremist lawmaker from Jerusalem Old City march
Israel's prime minister has barred an extremist lawmaker from entering Muslim areas in Jerusalem's old city following a series of attacks by Israeli forces on Palestinians.
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Far-right Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir said he 'plans to raise the Israeli flag at the Damascus Gate', a major entrance to Jerusalem's Old City [source: Getty]

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday barred extremist lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir from entering Muslim areas of Jerusalem's Old City and holding a rally, in a bid to stem further violence.

Tensions in Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem have spiked in recent weeks, amid days of Israeli attacks on the Al-Aqsa mosque, which have injured scores of Palestinians during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

The ban is seen as an attempt to calm tensions and prevent further violence in the Old Cit

Ben Gvir announced he would take part in a rally on Wednesday evening, saying he would march through the Damascus Gate, the main entrance to the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem's Old City.

Bennett accepted the recommendation of security chiefs to prevent Ben Gvir from entering the Damascus Gate.

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"I have no intention of allowing petty politics to endanger human lives," Bennett said in a statement.

"I will not allow a political provocation by Ben Gvir to endanger IDF (Israeli army) soldiers and Israeli police officers, and render their already heavy task even heavier."

Israeli police had earlier banned the rally from taking place on the proposed route.

Ben Gvir is a far-right leader who has regularly incited violence against Palestinians and his supporters have chanted "Death to the Arabs" at rallies.

Right-winger Bennett, a key figure in Israel's settlement movement, leads a fragile coalition government.

Earlier this month, Bennett's coalition lost its one-seat majority of 61 in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel's parliament, after a member left in a dispute over the use of leavened bread products in hospitals during Passover.

Then on Sunday, the Raam party, drawn from the country's Arab-Israeli minority and with four members of the Knesset, suspended its support for the coalition following the attacks by Israeli forces at the Al-Aqsa mosque.

"Bennett, coalition security is not state security," Ben Gvir said on Twitter Wednesday, threatening to go to Damascus Gate if the police "did not compromise" on the route of the march.